This summer, my other job besides LET THEM ROAR was playing upright bass for Theatre Aspenʼs Production of “Guys and Dolls”. I had a great time playing for the production and hope to do it every summer!
During the rehearsals or before show time, there would be a bit of down time. I decided that this would be a good chance to read a book, so I decided to read “Creative Quest” by renowned drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
The book is basically some well thought out pieces of creative advice from a seasoned veteran in the music industry. While reading the book, I found myself trying to compare some of these pieces of advice to my own musical adventure with Let Them Roar. Here are some takeaways from the book that I felt LTR could relate to:
Thompson strongly urges collaboration in any creative pursuit. He cites a time in his career when things had become stagnant and he was in a bit of a rut. He then started to collaborate with a new artist and found that this enhanced his creativity and changed his perspective.
I can relate to this greatly. Some of my favorite times with LTR have been when we have collaborated with others.
Two summers ago, LTR found ourselves in an in between time and our plans for the summer werenʼt rock solid. An old friend approached us to record on his album down in Durango. This album wasnʼt exactly a LTR album. Sure it featured LTR, but it also featured five other musicians and we recorded a collection of originals. I feel like this experience was out of the box for us and stretched us in new ways. We recorded in Durango instead of the Roaring Fork Valley which was different from anything we had done before. We had never recorded with Scooter (our audio engineer) and he had a fresh perspective of who we were as a band. Two of the other musicians, Carter Colia and Harris Jackson were familiar to us from other projects but the other musicians Sam, Seth and Dennon are durango musicians we had just met. This collaboration also was the configuration we used for our fun Mountain Fair set this summer. It was definitely a highlight performance for me and I know it was for the others. This collaboration was a very positive experience for everyone involved and it stretched our creativity in many ways.
Listen to album we made in Spotify !
The idea here from Thompson is that great ideas come when we are bored. I struggle with this one because there are so many distractions these days. If I find myself with some free time and boredom is setting in, I am inclined to go biking or get outside a bit. What I should do, if Iʼm seeking creative inspiration, is force myself to be bored and see if any new musical ideas blossom from the boredom. Let Them Roar is a busy group of individuals with a lot of commitments as well. Spare time is hard to come by. The closest we have come to this in my experience is on our band retreats. They are in no way boring, but they provide the opportunity for creative ideas to expose themselves due to a lack of distractions. These retreats tend to last for 1-3 days and are totally focused on all things LTR. The daily schedule has songwriting, business items and goal setting built into it. If there is a two hour songwriting session, ideas are naturally going to come out because that is all everyone is focused on. One time, we created a songwriting prompt that was “Write a song about a color”. Each person was assigned a different task and we had 1 hour to complete the song. This was a great exercise in collaboration and keeping your focus on one task at a time. We successfully wrote a song, was it perfect? probably not, but this got the creative juices flowing and created focused creative pursuit that everyone could work on.
A recent moment of waiting at Victor Guitars in Denver leads to some spontaneous collaboration and creativity.
3. The Departure
This chapter recommends being open and receptive to the ideas around you.
“Moving away from those familiar spaces and places raises the stakes. It puts us in a position where we will find either major inspiration or no inspiration at all. Itʼs an adrenaline rush. It renews the risk.”
I feel like LTR has demonstrated this with our “I See My Light” project. This project has been a major learning experience for all of us. It has certainly been a departure from the way we have performed in the past. I feel like this has enabled us to be creative in many out of the box ways. The song was written collaboratively, we recorded a music video with an ASL interpreter, we presented a multimedia presentation that included songs, speakers, and video and we raised money through online sales of a song and video. These are all departures from what we have normally done in the past, and it certainly has been a great stretch of our creativity. For these performances and this project, we departed from what we would normally do at a live show and changed how we operate as a band. Instead of just performers, we took on the role of fundraisers for a larger entity. Definitely a departure that has helped us grow creatively as individuals and as a collective.
To conclude, I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It doesnʼt just apply to musicians but to anyone that is looking for new ways to add creativity into their life. As Thompson said, everyone is creative in some way and these are great tips on how to harness that creativity and let it enhance your life.